Family owned businesses are the cornerstone of America, representing an estimated 19 percent of the 28.8 million small businesses in the United States today. Here, Riley Warren, Fabrication manager at The Warren Company, headquartered in Erie, Pennsylvania, talks about what it means to be a part of a family owned, full-service steel warehouse and fabrication business that is marking 110 years in 2023.
The Warren Company was founded in Erie by family patriarch Samuel Warren in 1913. Tell us how the company got its start.
The company was founded primarily as a slate roof and flashing installer. As we grew, we transitioned to the supplier side, becoming a metal warehouse that quickly expanded into a full-service metal warehouse and fabrication shop.
Over the years, The Warren Company has expanded its capabilities and services. Please explain.
Our niche is being able to do a little bit of everything. With that, comes investing back into the company so our employees, facility and equipment meet the needs of our very diverse customer base. At The Warren Company, we aim to be at the forefront of capability and technology, which allows us to better serve our customers to their exacting specifications. We have continued to push our business with asset purchases in laser cutting, laser welding and additional CNC equipment.
As the business has grown, your facilities and footprint have grown as well. Describe your present operations.
Throughout the last 110 years, we have gone through a variety of growth and expansion. We migrated to our current location from our original East 10th Street building in 1968. In the past 50 years, we have gone through seven expansions with our current footprint sitting at 168,000 square feet.
As a steel service center, all of our material is stored under roof and vertically integrated into our building, allowing for better quality
material and more efficient utilization of our building footprint. By utilizing our space efficiently, we have the ability to provide the same level of service to walk-in customers that we provide to our largest customers. Value- added processing has been a competitive advantage for the warehouse side of our business throughout our history. Currently, we offer seven different first step processes, which allows us to profile cut anything from 0.001 inches to 10 inches thick, saw cut anything smaller than 23 inches by 18 inches and shear material a half-inch and below.
The fabrication side of our business takes the same “inch deep, mile wide” approach to our customers and capabilities as the warehousing side. We offer 11-plus different processes in our fabrication shop, from plate rolling to TIG welding to stamping thousands of parts. With 60,000 square feet of fabrication space and crane capacity up to 20 tons, we are able to produce fabrications to meet any industry requirements.
The Warren Company is a multigenerational, family owned business. How involved are the family members in the company today?
The family members are very involved in the current operations of the business. My father, fourth generation owner Robert Warren, is the president of the company, while my mother Leesl Warren is the HR manager. Their primary responsibility currently is to pass on their knowledge and experience to my brother Noah Warren and I. I lead the fabrication department, and Noah is involved with the purchasing group. With the involvement of a fifth generation, The Warren Company is situated to continue serving our customers for many years to come.
In your opinion, what is the best part of running a family owned business?
Being able to continue, add to and improve a multigenerational organization is a rewarding experience. The camaraderie of working with employees that have worked with three generations of ownership is something you rarely experience in the corporate world and adds to our company culture.
What does it mean to you to celebrate 110 years as a family owned business this year?
We have come a long way over that period of time, and every big milestone we like to take some time and reflect on the past and how we made it this far. What continues to come with every milestone is the wonderful employees that we get to work with every day.
They say that if a family business is destined to fail it is normally during the third generation’s ownership. We have employees that have worked with three family ownership generations and have non-ownership employee families that are on their fourth generation working here. We believe this speaks to the successful, inclusive, creative, employee-focused culture that we have, and will continue to build upon, at The Warren Company.
For more information, visit thewarrencompany.com.